The Direct to Video Connoisseur

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

RoboCop 2 (1990)

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In continuing our celebration of the DTVC's 500th post, we're looking at RoboCop 2, the bigger budget sequel to the Paul Verhoeven classic. Verhoeven didn't direct this one, and Ed Neumeier also stepped aside as co-writer, with that duty being taken by Frank Miller.

RoboCop 2 picks up where part one leaves off. Peter Weller is our hero again, and he's starting to have more flashbacks to his former life, and is longing for his humanity. At the same time OCP is looking for the next better RoboCop so they won't have to use the Weller version, and they have their chance when RoboCop is blown apart by a gang manufacturing the narcotic NUKE. At the same time, OCP is looking to take over the city after they've defaulted on their debt because OCP runs their police force. To keep the mayor from getting funds elsewhere, OCP has sent their new creation, RoboCop version 2.0 into stop him. Problem with the new RoboCop: the crazy psychologist OCP has on their payroll decided the psychotic leader of the NUKE gang RoboCop took down would make the perfect brain for the machine. Man, RoboCop has really got his work cut out for himself how, huh?

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This one was good, but nowhere near as groundbreaking as it's predecessor. That was probably to be expected, especially since to my mind RoboCop was a very complete movie, leaving very little behind for a sequel to be made with. I do like questions about what drugs are good and what drugs are bad, and the validity of Reagan's War on Drugs; and the idea that governments and corporations need to be as separate as the branches of government do, otherwise we could be in for problems. Overall, it wasn't bad. Sure, tons of violence, but done in a very satirical way, similar to the first one, just not quite as good.

One of the best concepts was the overly PC RoboCop who had too many directives to be able to function properly. This was a very Team America approach about 15 years ahead of schedule, the way they made fun of both the right and the left. It's funny that a film as over the top as RoboCop 2 would have as its ultimate message that we need to practice a little moderation. What's more amazing is how relevant the message is today, especially with the no government no taxes Tea Baggers. I remember seeing a sign someone made as a joke to hold up at one of the rallies that read: "I hate government, I hate taxes, I'm moving to Somalia." The truth is, no government and no taxes would probably lead us more down the road of OCP than it would Somalia-- or rather the lawlessness of RoboCop's Detroit-- but neither is a welcome sight. But too much government can be a bad thing too, and though this film replaces government fascists with corporate ones, the historical alternative can be a bad one too. (I also think the overly PC RoboCop was poking fun at the first film's critics who said it was too violent.)

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This would be the last RoboCop film Peter Weller would star in, having a conflict that prevented him from acting in part 3. It's an interesting question, whether or not he made a good or bad choice to stay on and do this one. I'm not sure about that, but what I do know is if he hadn't been in it, it would've been a lot worse. He's just a great professional actor, which I'm sure everyone's familiar with being that he's a DTVC Hall of Famer. Other than Buckeroo Bonzai, and probably more than Buckeroo Bonzai, this is his best known role. I think it was good, no matter how much of a step down this one might have been, for him to play the part again. As a side note, Patricia Charbonneau was in this as a scientist who works on Weller. You may remember her from Shakedown, another Weller picture that came out in 1988.

According to the trivia section for RoboCop 2's imdb entry, Paul Verhoeven was approached about a sequel, and he was for it, but wanted to wait for the right script, and give it some time so a sequel wouldn't look like a cash grab. Orion disagreed, and they called in Miller, whose script was unfilmable, forcing them to rewrite it. Verhoeven said had he been given time, what he had in mind would've been much better than what we got.

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I included a picture from the scene where the Little League team robs an electronics store and brutally beats the owner. I did this from my own personal memories. I don't remember what talk show it was at the time, Donahue or Geraldo, but one of them did a show on violence in movies, and a woman they had as one of the guests was freaking out about that scene. For her that was the lowest of the low. Maybe at 11 (which was how old I was when RoboCop 2 came out), I would think the same way she did, but as an adult, I can't see how she didn't see the humor in it. Obviously it was meant as a satire of all the complaints people were making about how violence was ruining our youth, essentially making fun of her as well; but the key to the scene is the coach loading the stuff onto the truck. He's the ring leader, and also the adult figure that's really influencing kids. What they were saying is, it's the adults closest to kids that determine what their behavior will be like as adults more than anything else.

If you liked the first one (and I loved it), this is a pretty fun time. Again, it's nowhere near what the first one was, but few films are, and viewed within the context of the first one, it's actually a little better than most people were giving it credit. A little.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100502/

17 comments:

  1. Like I said I give this the thumbs up too. I think the film's biggest problem was that the first one had such high standards to live up to, and we get few movies like Terminator 2. Whatever the case I think Robocop 2 is still a solid little film.

    The comedy and satire was actually done better here. The action was on par, all that was lacking was the sense of humanity and sadness, well actually the movie has a few moments but such is just jammed full of ideas.

    Also the action is spectactular. So overall a solid recommendation but just not the classic the other was. It's sort of like Terminator 3. It's a decent movie, has some good action and even some ideas of novelty but the biggest problem it just isn't as good as the ones before.

    I will say this though where as Salvation I didn't care for, that's still far more than Robocop 3. Ugh what a stinker that was.

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  2. Yeah, we're talking about two different levels, and so if we're comparing part 1 to 2, there's no comparison; but on its own as a movie, RoboCop 2 is pretty solid, and compared to a lot of bigger budget action films of the 90s, it holds its own.

    You know it's interesting you bring up RoboCop and Terminator, because I think there we see why one made for a good sequel and the other didn't. Terminator, though well done, was just a well done action/sci-fi flick. RoboCop is an art house flick at its core-- it just happens to be very bloody and violent. I guess what I'm saying is, Terminator was set up to be a franchise, and RoboCop wasn't. It just happened that T2 hit it out of the park, which made it even better.

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  3. Speaking of which, I went ahead and reviewed Robocop 1-3. Like I said, whenever you review nostalgic classics, I have no choice but to review it.

    I don't if Robocop was arthouse like. I think Robocop could've made for a great franchise I mean all the ideas that set stuff up were good. Even Robocop 3's premise wasn't bad.

    Terminator had problems with coming up with ways to continue the story after T2. I think the biggest thing was casting Kristanna Loken as the cyborg. Call me sexist but I think audiences found it tough to see Schwarzenegger be slammed around by a frail woman, I mean if it had been say Uma Thurman by all means, but a 5'4 slender thing was hard for people to take, I liked it for a lot of the ideas but I think the villain hurt T3 the most as everything else was pretty well handled.

    I think the other aspect is that Robocop Vs Terminator could've really worked in the 90s. (Arnold is too old now and such would be lame without Arnold) In which you could easily have terminators sent back in time to destroy Robocop and such a universe could easily path. Then again though with the exception of the guilty pleasure Freddy Vs Jason, all Vs films suck chunks.

    Robocop actually I think lent itself to a vision, for you could have Robocop exist in a Mad Max wasteland or what have you. Indeed when I watched Robocop 3 again (I watched them all yesterday) I kept thinking how Nemesis kind of felt like more of a sequel in the spirit than the other two.

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  4. When I said RoboCop vs. Terminator, I meant more as one franchise as a style versus the other, not the two characters, though I believe there was a video game with that in it. Just thinking about the two characters reiterates my point. That first RoboCop was supposed to be a Frankenstein or a Beast, mixed with a comic book style hero. He wasn't imagined to be able to crossover or duke it out with anyone else. I guess like Frankenstein, though, it only made sense to throw him in other situations, the way Frankenstein was.

    I really would like to know what Verhoeven had in mind for a sequel.

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  5. Yeah I pretty much agree with you on this film, also I recently watched Team America but didn't really care for it, I've always found Matt Parker and Trey Stone to be immensely overrated, I never got what the big deal about South Park was, I always found i extremely unfunny(the movie was didn't do a damn thing for me either) and Team AMerica wasn't much better, I only occasionally laughed at it and those were mild laughs at best. My main issue is that Parker and Stone's writing is that they try way too hard to be clever and often fail at it.

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  6. I really love this movie. It's darker and more surreal than the first, in my opinion. The totally fake brain in the jar? The skeleton of Elvis in an abandoned factory? The two failed Robocop 2 prototypes with the Old Man's remorseful line: "... 90 million.."? Love it.

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  7. I can see your point on Parker and Stone, Venom, but I really dug Team America. Maybe having been a PoliSci student going for my MA, I could get into it more, but even the non-political stuff, like "Pearl Harbor Sucks, and I Miss You", or "acting didn't kill your brother, those gorillas did!" were hilarious. It wasn't amazing, but I liked it.

    Sutekh, I loved the Elvis bones too. I heard that had they been able to film Miller's version, it would've been better, so I'm curious to check out the comic book he did based on that script. I think the original was as dark and surreal, but not as overt, which I personally liked better.

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  8. Actually it's me Michael, again I somehow managed to get yet another username.

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  9. "Thank you... for not smoking."

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  10. Never understood the hate this one gets. I mean, its a fun Robocop movie every step of the way.

    Its violence is slightly higher, I think the real problem with this movie was that people HATED the fact that there was a little kid who was a drug dealer in it. That really rubbed some people the wrong way.

    By adding useless prime directives into Robocops programming, I think the filmmakers were showing how stupid it would be for Robocop to be "non-violent" I mean, he is a cop and has to kick evil doers asses. What's he going to do, throw flowers at them and tuck them good night?

    But also, its commenting on how too many rules can be a bad thing, I mean, we need our freedom as well. Which is what Robocop goes for when he short circuits himself, whipes himself clean of any stupid directives and suddenly becomes the ruler of his own destiny. Nobody controls him from then on but himself.

    I thought that was a great message, but of course, its lost in the middle of the violence, drugs and bloodshed.

    As a sidenote, Id like to say how much I enjoy Phil Tippets stop motion animation on this movie, its freaking orgasmic. Non stop ass kicking for the films whole third half. Suddenly, the movie turns into an old monster movie, with two robots kicking the shit out of each other!

    I dont hate this movie as much as some people do, to me this movie is an action extravaganza, maybe not as dignified as the original, because they kind of amped up the comedy and the sarcasm, but hey, its not a bad Rocobop movie at all.

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  11. It seems like there are a lot of defenders for this and rightfully so. I'll be very surprised if people stand tall for the third one. Indeed there were some Prime Directives TV movies with the guy from The Hitchhiker as Robocop and those were better than Robocop 3. Those unforunately had the ambition but not the budget.

    They really should've stopped after 2. That said I do think Robocop is worthy of a reboot, however not a remake. I think Robocop Returns or something like that might work. However a remake itself would be lame.

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  12. Agree with you on that Kenner, retelling Robocops origin would be lame, but Im dying to see some more Robo action. I saw those Prime Directive Movies you talk about, but they never really amazed me much. But they were okay for t.v. movies I guess.

    There was even a Robocop T.V. show for a while, but it didn't last that long.

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  13. Arne't a reboot and a remake basically the same thing? Reboot just sounds like a more polite way of saying remake to me.

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  14. I think if they're going to redo RoboCop, they need to enlist Verhoeven and Neumeier again, otherwise I'd be worried about. Again, Hollywood doesn't have a great track record on these things.

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  15. I don't now if Verhoeven would even back if he was offered the chance at all, he's expressed ow dissatisfied he was with Hollywood in recent years, so don't count on that happening.

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  16. Some interesting news. Peter Weller has been cast in Dexter season 5 as a metro cop, for 8 out of 12 episodes.

    http://shocktillyoudrop.com/news/topnews.php?id=15797

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  17. That should be cool. Anytime we can get more Wller it's a good thing, though I'd rather see him do some more DTV movies than star on Dexter.

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